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Uncloaking the Demons

Director Karyn Kusama and Nicole Kidman on the set of “Destroyer.”

Karyn Kusama’s latest film, “Destroyer,” starring Academy Award winner Nicole Kidman and released by Annapurna Pictures, is now playing in select theaters.

“Destroyer” follows the moral and existential odyssey of LAPD detective Erin Bell, who, as a young cop, was placed undercover with a gang in the California desert with tragic results. When the leader of that gang re-emerges many years later, she must work her way back through the remaining members and into her own history with them to finally reckon with the demons that destroyed her past.

Kidman has received a Golden Globe nomination for her portrayal of Bell. Rotten Tomatoes’ critical consensus reads, “‘Destroyer’s’ grueling narrative is as uncompromising as Nicole Kidman’s central performance, which adds extra layers to a challenging film that leaves a lingering impact.”

The cast also includes Toby Kebbell, Tatiana Maslany, Sebastian Stan, Scoot McNairy, Bradley Whitford, Toby Huss, James Jordan, Beau Knapp and Jade Pettyjohn. The screenplay is by Phil Hay, Kusama’s husband, and his writing partner, Matt Manfredi.

For a trailer and ticket information, visit

Nicole Kidman, Karyn Kusama and Tatiana Maslany at the Telluride Film Festival world premiere of “Destroyer” in August.

Born in Brooklyn in 1968 to Haruo Kusama, a child psychiatrist, and Susan McGuire, an educational psychiatrist, Kusama grew up in St. Louis, where she graduated from Ladue Horton Watkins High School. In 1990, she earned a BFA in film and TV from New York’s Tisch School of the Arts, where she won a Mobile Prize for a student film called “Sleeping Beauties.”

She worked for director John Sayles when he was making “Lone Star” (1996) and developing “Men with Guns” (1997) and “Limbo” (1999). Having trained as a boxer with Hector Roca at Gleason’s Gym in Brooklyn since 1992, she wrote and directed her first feature, “Girlfight” (2000), at the age of 31. It took two years to find financing for the film, reportedly because of Kusama’s insistence that the lead character be a Latina (played by Michelle Rodriguez).

“Girlfight” won the Director’s Prize and shared the Grand Jury Prize at the 2000 Sundance Film Festival, and was theatrically released by Sony Screen Gems. In 2004, Kusama directed a science fiction love story, “Aeon Flux,” for Paramount Pictures. The film starred Charlize Theron, Marton Csokas, and Frances McDormand. The studio reworked the film, leading Kusama to declare that she would never again work on a film if she did not have final cut.

Her third feature was the comedy-horror film “Jennifer’s Body” (2009), starring Megan Fox, written by Diablo Cody, and released by Twentieth Century Fox. She followed that with “The Invitation” (2015), an award-winning psychological suspense film that starred Logan Marshall-Green, Tammy Blanchard and Michiel Huisman, and was written by Hay and Manfredi.

For “XX” (2017), which consisted of four short horror films directed by and starring women, Kusama wrote and directed “Her Only Living Son,” in which a single mother (Christina Kirk) discovers that her rebellious son (Kyle Allen) was not fathered by her former husband.

Kusama’s TV credits include “The L Word,” “Chicago Fire,” “Casual,” “Masters of Sex,” “The Man in the High Castle,” “Billions” and “Halt and Catch Fire.” She has been working regularly as a TV director since 2015.

According to Variety, Kusama will direct Fox’s upcoming horror movie “Breed,” based on the Chase Novak book of the same name, with Hay and Manfredi producing and writing the adaptation. The story follows a wealthy New York couple who turns to a controversial Eastern European fertility clinic to conceive when all conventional methods fail. Ten years later, the nightmarish side effects of the procedure begin to manifest.

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